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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Dashou (1791-1858)

    14 lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven or eight characters and lines of five characters. The fourteenth line has the dedication. After this is the signature. Dashou was a well-known monk famous for his calligraphy, painting and seal carving. He was called the Jinshi monk, or the "monk of [calligraphy written on] bronze and stone," a reference that certainly praised his erudition in the study of ancient characters found in these media. A friend wrote of him, "Shang vessels, Zhou tripods, Han seals, Tang stelae: over the sweep of 3000 years milord has acquired their breadth and measure from a responsive Heaven." His early history is unknown, but he must have begun his studies at an early age and have come from an environment that treasured such erudition. The short passage begins with the date "jianzhong, qingguo, yuannian, shiyue" or "the tenth month of the first year of the jianzhong qiingguo era" which would be the year 1101. This is the date Su Shi (1037-1101) the great poet, calligrapher, and statesman, died. This, and the fact that Su Shi's pen name, Dongpo, occurs in the seventh line of the passage, strongly suggests that Dashou is writing out a passage from Su's essays, which have always been treasured for their literary style. Just as important is the beauty of Su's calligraphy, which has been used as a model by generations of Chinese as Dashou does here. Any scholar more versed in literature than I could certainly identify the specific source for this. The characters are beautifully written in a regular script characteristic of Su Shi. Each character is contained within itself, with a careful balance of vertical and horizontal elements. Over the surface, no single character stands out, nor do any seem less important no matter the simplicity of their form. This work should be of interest to anyone who is studying the sources for Dashou's style.